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Remarks of Mary Lou Leary, Principal Deputy Assistant Attorney General
Office of Justice Programs

Internet Crimes Against Children National Conference
Welcome and Opening and Master of Ceremonies
Tuesday, May 11, 2010
Jacksonville, FL

       Good Morning. Welcome to the Internet Crimes Against Children, or ICAC, National Conference. Please stand and join me for the Presentation of the Colors by the Jacksonville Sheriff's Office Honor Guard. Following the Presentation, Miss Emma Levy, a member of the Boys & Girls Clubs of Northeast Florida, will sing the National Anthem.

       Thank you to the Jacksonville Sheriff's Office Honor Guard for being with us today. And, Miss Levy, I must say that your voice is exceptionally big for such a young girl. You did a remarkable job. Thank you.

       Thank you all for being here. As you will hear from Attorney General Eric Holder in his taped message and from Gary Grindler, the Acting Deputy Attorney General, everyone at the Justice Department is so appreciative of the work all of you do to protect our nation's children.

       Serving victims - especially child victims - has always been one of my priorities. Before joining the Office of Justice Programs, I was the Executive Director of the National Center for Victims of Crime. I'm thrilled to now have the opportunity to take my knowledge of victims' needs and rights and apply it at the federal level.

       As law enforcement investigators, forensic experts, and prosecutors, you work tirelessly to keep children safe from predators who have no name, no face, and criminal intentions. You initiate intense investigations starting with little more than a vague screen name. Often, you are forced to learn countless new technologies - and even new vocabularies - to keep up. The work you do is difficult, specialized, highly technical, and vital to the safety and security of some of our most vulnerable citizens.

       This week, we bring you together to provide resources to make your hard jobs a little easier. You will find more than 140 lecture sessions and 70 interactive workshops throughout this conference that will give you the chance to hone your skills and learn from the best.

       More than 80 presenters who have devoted their careers to protecting children from online exploitation are joining us. Most importantly, I think, you will have the opportunity to talk with each other and learn from each other. This conference includes countless formal and informal networking options, and we hope you'll take advantage of them all.

        Our theme, "PROTECTing Our Children: Making the Internet a Safer Place," could also serve as a mission statement for the ICAC Task Forces throughout the country. With the passage of the PROTECT Our Children Act in 2008, the ICAC Task Forces became part of a larger strategy for preventing the exploitation of children. Originally created in 1998, the ICAC task forces were a revolutionary idea. So much has changed since then.

       Computers have become smaller, faster, and cheaper. Internet connections are more reliable and load times are just a bit faster than they were in the days of dial up. While these changes make life, and work, easier and more productive for us all, they also make children more accessible to predators.

       Social networking sites like Facebook and MySpace have granted those who wish to harm and abuse children unprecedented access. Children are getting and using cell phones at younger and younger ages. Kids - and, too often, their parents - remain unaware of the potential dangers of these technologies.

       That is where the ICAC Task Forces come in. In Fiscal Year 2009 alone, Task Forces reported nearly 28,000 complaints, including child pornography, enticement or obscenity directed at minors, and child prostitution. These complaints resulted in more than 13,000 investigations. So, I don't have to tell you that the ICAC task forces are no less groundbreaking today than they were in 1998.

        The Justice Department is committed to helping the ICAC Task Forces meet the 21st century challenges you face - with financial support, training, and technical assistance. Last year, the ICAC program received $75 million in federal funding, with $50 million of that awarded through the Recovery Act. More than $12 million went directly toward training, technical assistance, and research.

       Just a few weeks ago, while testifying before Congress on the Office of Justice Program's 2011 Budget, Assistant Attorney General Laurie Robinson emphasized the importance of supporting training and technical assistance. Funds for training and technical assistance, she pointed out, are some of the best spent federal dollars - in terms of results. The Justice Department knows that conferences like this one are a sound investment.

       We also know that there is no better investment than one in our nation's children. At the end of March, the Justice Department announced the availability of more than $5 million to support the Attorney General's Initiative on Children Exposed to Violence.

       These funds will sponsor planning, outreach, research, and best practices that will reduce childhood exposure to violence and improve the outcomes for children who are victimized. This effort is a personal priority for the Attorney General and is part of our larger mission to provide children with the safe and secure places they need to grow into healthy adults.

       We have come together this week because technology never stops evolving, and new innovations mean new opportunities for predators and new challenges for professionals like you. Your work is not done. And the Justice Department will make sure you never do it alone.

        Before we begin today, I want to take just a few moments to acknowledge the people who made this training conference possible. First, I'd like to thank the ICAC Task Force Commanders. Your work and leadership throughout the year is invaluable. Our federal law enforcement partners also deserve a big thank you for their determined efforts to make the ICAC task forces a success.

        The Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Protection, or OJJDP, provided the funding and leadership that made this conference possible. There are so many people at OJJDP who worked on this conference, and we appreciate all of you.

        The ICAC Training and Technical Assistance Program created pertinent and timely lecture sessions and labs. In this rapidly changing field, that is no small accomplishment. So, I'd certainly like to thank them for their work.

        Finally, I'd like to acknowledge Jacksonville, and all of the wonderful representatives of this city who are with us today, for hosting this event. Florida has been a leader in combating internet crimes against children, and it's so appropriate that we are here today.

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